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Dundrennan, Kirkcudbrightshire

Historical Description

DUNDRENNAN, a village, in the parish of Rerrick, stewartry of Kirkcudbright, 4 miles (E. S. E.) from Kirkcudbright; containing 202 inhabitants. It is situated in a beautiful valley, about a mile and a half from the north-western shore of Solway Firth, and is celebrated for its ancient abbey, founded in 1142 by Fergus, lord of Galloway, for monks of the Cistercian order whom he brought from Rivaulx, in the county of York. This establishment, of which Sylvanus was the first abbot, continued to flourish under his successors till the Reformation; and after its dissolution in 1561 its revenues, amounting to £500, were, upon the death of the last abbot, annexed by James VI. to his royal chapel of Stirling. During the incumbency of the last abbot (Edward Maxwell, son of Lord John Herries), Mary, Queen of Scots, arrived at this place on her flight from the disastrous battle of Langside, and here spent the night previous to her embarkation for England, for which she sailed from a small creek surrounded by precipitous cliffs, and since called Port-Mary in commemoration of the event. The village has a pleasingly rural appearance; the houses are neatly built, and ornamented with trees of ancient growth, and there are two comfortable inns for the reception of visiters. One of two parochial schools in Rerrick is held here. In the vicinity )S the elegant mansion of Dundrennan, the seat of the Maitland family; and the place derives much interest from the venerable ruins of the abbey, and the beauty and variety of the surrounding scenery.

The ruins are situated on a gentle acclivity rising from a narrow vale, through which flows the streamlet called Abbey Burn. They consist chiefly of parts of the conventual church, originally a stately cruciform structure in the early English style, with a central tower 200 feet in height. Several of the monuments are still remaining, but in a greatly dilapidated condition. Among these is the tomb of Alan, lord of Galloway, who was interred in the church in 1233, and whose recumbent effigy in armour, and cross-legged, is sculptured in high relief, but much mutilated; and the tomb of one of the abbots in his canonicals is in tolerable preservation, though the inscription is totally obliterated. For the preservation of the remains, Mr. Maitland some years since presented a memorial to the commissioners of woods and forests, proposing to relinquish all his right of property in the abbey, on condition of its receiving from the crown protection from further dilapidation. In accordance with this proposal, the remains have been secured from decay, and, with the surrounding burying-ground, inclosed with a high fence of stone. The pavements of the church have been cleared from all accumulations of rubbish, and reduced to their ancient level; and many of the monuments, and of the beautifully clustered columns and gracefully pointed arches, have been restored. The whole, therefore, is now one of the best preserved and most interesting relics of monastic architecture in the kingdom.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland, 1851 by Samuel Lewis